Chronology : 19th century 1870-1879 1928 1952 1961
1872 Les Courses au Bois de Boulogne by Manet
2004 SOLD 26.3 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Manet easily entered into artist circles. He enjoys social life and does not wait for the recognition of the Salons. His themes are unlimited. Before him, Courbet went already complacently up to the scandal. Baudelaire and then Zola recognize the originality of his approach.
On May 5, 2004, Sotheby's sold for $ 26.3M including premium Les Courses au Bois de Boulogne, oil on canvas 73 x 94 cm painted in 1872 by Manet, lot 13, from the collection of one of the most famous owners of racehorses, John Hay Whitney. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The artist skillfully mixed observation and imitation. It seems that the topography of the Longchamp racecourse was painted on the spot.
Manet had demonstrated a few years earlier in his first bullfighting scenes that a direct participation in the event was not essential, since he could rely on Goya. Here the horses in full gallop all fly with their four legs lifted, as in the Epsom Derby painted by Géricault in 1821, acquired by the Louvre in 1866. The imperturbable position of the jockeys in full race is not realistic : the sporting effort was obviously not appreciated by Manet.
Manet's painting is however very modern. The track and the lawn are aquamarine blue, highlighting the contrasts in a freedom of colors that anticipates expressionism for several decades. The distance of the subjects is marked by an increasing blur, as if it were a photograph focused on the action in progress in the foreground. This artifice provides the whole composition with an effect of depth, different from the solutions sought by his impressionist friends.
1876 Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir
1990 SOLD for $ 78 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Their temperaments are different. They are young and tempted by the good life of dancing balls. While Monet is overtaken by his wife, Renoir expresses the carefree joie de vivre of the groups to which he applies the impressionist style. Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 and Le Déjeuner des Canotiers, exhibited in 1882, are among the most important masterpieces of painting.
Renoir painted two identical versions of the Moulin de la Galette. The largest, 131 x 175 cm, became the property of the French State through the Caillebotte bequest and is currently at the Musée d'Orsay.
The other version is an oil on canvas 78 x 114 cm damaged by folding. Coming from the Whitney collection, it was sold for $ 78M including premium by Sotheby's on May 17, 1990. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The buyer was a Japanese collector named Ryoei Saito, who had acquired the Portrait of Dr Gachet by Van Gogh two days earlier at Christies for $ 82M including premium. Saito creates some terror in the art world by announcing that at his death he will be cremated with the two paintings to avoid that enormous inheritance rights are required to his heirs.
Saito died in 1996. His threat was not carried out because his wealth had turned down and the artworks were sequestered by his creditors, but the two paintings were never seen again. The Van Gogh was reportedly located in 2007 in the collection of an Austrian financier who has since gone bankrupt.
1877 The Great Station of Modernism
2018 SOLD for £ 25M including premium
Argenteuil decidedly does not inspire him any more. Just back from Montgeron he left for Paris with an authorization from the railway administration to work inside the Gare Saint-Lazare.
From January to March 1877 he made a sort of report composed of twelve artworks, four inside the station and eight outside, in varied weather conditions. A passer-by narrated that he saw Claude Monet perched on a stack of crates with his brush in his hand, feverishly waiting for the ambient light to match his expectations.
The choice of this theme is unexpected for this artist but is certainly not a self attempt to be disgusted from the smokes of the city. A better hypothesis is that Monet considered himself as a leader of the new outdoor painting and did not want to be overcome by the urban pictures of Caillebotte and Manet.
Indeed when the third exhibition of the Impressionnistes opened in April 1877 his Saint-Lazare series was already completed and it featured prominently in his selection. The rejection of modernist themes by Monet comes one year later when Camille fails to recover from a child birth. Life and work in the countryside become indispensable for Monet and his family. His Gares Saint-Lazare will remain forever an unparalleled set.
On May 8, 2018 Christie's sold for $ 33M including premium the only sunny image of the group, 61 x 81 cm.
On June 20 in London, Christie's sells another outdoor view, oil on canvas of the same size, lot 25 B estimated £ 22M. The foreground is intentionally empty to draw a better attention to the background where the thick steam from the trains mingle in a cloudy sky. The two locomotives and the tall arches of the glass roofs of the station provide the illusion of a picturesque instantaneous.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1877 The Ultimate Train of Claude Monet
2018 SOLD for $ 33M including premium
In January 1877 Monet spends a few days in Paris for a series on the Gare Saint-Lazare, one of the best symbols of modernism. He paints twelve canvases showing the interior with the platforms or the outside with trains coming or leaving. The result of this creativity is significant. The nauseating smoke of trains mingles with a heavily loaded sky and makes you want to run away.
Only one of the twelve paintings, 61 x 81 cm, escapes this pessimism thanks to a bright sunshine. The view is taken towards the double tunnel of the Batignolles. On the left the smoke is a fairly sharp cone. On the right the train has not yet come out and its smoke is diffused in all directions in the square, creating a veil in the atmosphere of clear weather.
In the best tradition of early Impressionnisme, this painting offers an ambience through which we can almost perceive heat and smell. Rockefeller did not make a mistake when he bought it. He liked this artwork very much while noting that the asking price had seemed high. It is for sale by Christie's in New York on May 8, lot 26.
This series marks a decisive turning point in Claude Monet's career. For the very last time he had tried to illustrate the progress. For nearly half a century he will stubbornly devote to landscapes, to monuments and to his garden.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1878 Balconies in Paris
2019 SOLD for $ 14M including premium
Born in Paris in 1848, Gustave Caillebotte knew and appreciated such a breakthrough. In 1875 the young artist became an Impressionniste after his resentment of the Salon's rejection of a too social painting. He has the imagination for finding new themes.
Another wonder of the time is the railroad. In 1876 Caillebotte paints a view of the pont de l'Europe, a very long railway viaduct that connects to the Gare Saint-Lazare. Monet is well acquainted with this station, the terminus of the line that leads him to Argenteuil. Is he suddenly inspired by modernism or is he afraid of being overcome by a competitor? He devotes the winter of 1877 to his series of paintings of the same station.
The capital is also experiencing cultural transformations. Inaugurated in 1875, the immense Opéra de Paris becomes the symbol of the wealthy bourgeoisie to which the Caillebotte family belongs.
On May 14 in New York, Sotheby's sells La Rue Halévy vue du sixième étage, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm painted by Caillebotte in 1878, lot 17 estimated $ 6M. The image below, shared by Wikimedia, was taken from an art book.
As wide as a boulevard, the rue Halévy leads from the boulevard Haussmann to the Opéra, which is visible beyond the Haussmannian buildings. This aerial cityscape is bold for its time. The street is pleasantly animated with sparse pedestrians and carriages.
Caillebotte definitely likes this district. After the death of their mother in that same year, Gustave and his brother Martial move to the 3rd floor at 31 boulevard Haussmann, less than 200 meters from the position of the previous sight. Their balcony overlooking the boulevard is the theme of several paintings in 1880 and 1881.
1880 L'Homme au Balcon by Caillebotte
2000 SOLD for $ 14.3M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Gustave Caillebotte does not need to sell his paintings. He appropriates Monet's virtuosity, which he adapts to the scenes of his familiar surrounding. He wanted to be seen as a guarantor of impressionism at a time when new styles, notably around Degas, were questioning the basics of the movement.
In his apartment, Caillebotte develops the theme of the balcony, this observatory that ensures the transition between the cozy interior and the grandiose exterior. On May 8, 2000, Christie's sold for $ 14.3M including premium L'Homme au balcon Boulevard Haussmann, oil on canvas 117 x 90 cm painted in 1880, lot 8. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Seen from behind, the standing man looks at the boulevard above which he has a dominant position. He is a visitor : he kept his top hat according to the fashion of the time, quite similar to the one we see on photos featuring Gustave.
The balance of this composition makes it an example worthy for demonstration, which Caillebotte will exhibit in 1882 at the Septième Exposition des Artistes Indépendants. On a beautiful sunny day, the foliage and buildings appear between the wrought iron grille and the elegant two-tone canopy.
This painting was given by the artist to his notary, who is probably the bourgeois of this scene.
1881 Through the Looking Bar
2015 SOLD for £ 17M including premium
The inspiration of Manet is modernist, which is clearly visible in the series of Seasons that he will not complete and where he is adapting the classic portraiture to display a modern young woman.
On June 24 in London, Sotheby's sells Le bar aux Folies-Bergère, oil on canvas 47 x 56 cm painted in 1881, lot 8 estimated £ 15M.
The barmaid is positioned before a vast space which is a reflection in a wall mirror, including her own reflection. The exact position of the glass is hardly noticeable. In the background, colors in dots figure a crowd at a show, anticipating altogether Lautrec and abstract art.
This scene that desires to be a counterpart to Las Meninas by Velazquez is troubling in its angles. It was painted in the studio. The man on the right who is visible only in his reflection is the door neighbor. The consistency of his position is explained when we accept to exclude the logical assumption that it he placed just in front of the woman.
Manet wants to create a masterpiece and appreciates that this theme allows it. Painted a few months later, the second and final version 96 x 130 cm marks a come back to a scene in realistic line with a towering girl whose actual model is an employee of the Folies-Bergère, a crowd whose details are visible and some additions like the increased assortment of drinks on the bar and the legs of the trapeze artist that anticipate Chagall.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1886 Park in Paris by Van Gogh
2019 SOLD for $ 9.7M including premium by Sotheby's
1897 Pissarro in Paris
2014 SOLD 19.7 M£ including premium
Considered now as one of the founders of Impressionism, he rather was one of its last precursors. Living in Pontoise and later in Eragny, he painted local themes : the village, the river, the orchards, the peasants. Close to nature, he observes the beautiful colors that vary according to season, time and sky. The Impressionist technique of restoring the shades without using lines matches perfectly his artistic quest.
Many years later, Pissarro is now feeling to be the last guarantor of the impressionist purity against the younger generation of Signac and Bonnard. After a discussion with Durand-Ruel, he begins a series of views of Paris.
In 1897, he rents a room for several months at the Grand Hôtel de Russie to observe the unlimited perspective and the busy life of Boulevard Montmartre. He knows to capture the mood of a moment.
His spring morning with the gas nozzle still lit, the shy sun onto the wet street and the early leaves that do not hide the branches is one of the best views of the series. This oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm is estimated £ 7M for sale by Sotheby's in London on February 5, lot 43 in the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
This beautiful demonstration of impressionist art was sold for £ 19.7 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1897 The Series of Boulevards
2019 SOLD for £ 7.1M including premium
Durand-Ruel is not discouraged. He had supported the movement since the first hour and organized their second exhibition in his gallery in 1876. Threatened by bankruptcy, he keeps his impressionist paintings because nobody wants them. He finds the solution by organizing permanent or temporary exhibitions in London and New York. Collectors are becoming interested in Monet and Renoir.
During the winter of 1890-1891, the theme of the Meules by Monet became a series, although it was not originally intended as such by the artist. The breakthrough of this new phase of Impressionism is the series of Peupliers in 1891 and the three series of Cathédrales de Rouen begun in 1892 : Monet keeps the same composition from one work to another for expressing the variations of light .
The new success of Impressionism finally reaches Pissarro, installed since 1884 at Eragny-sur-Epte where he tirelessly paints the rural atmosphere. Unlike Monet, Pissarro does not avoid the urban animation. After a consultation with Durand-Ruel, he conceives a series on modern Paris.
For that first series of views of Paris, he moves in February 1897 to the Grand Hôtel de Russie. Throughout several weeks he observes through the window the whole perspective of the boulevard Montmartre, with its interminable double procession of carriages, the passers-by on the sidewalk, the reappearance of the leaves in early spring, the gas burners to illuminate the night.
Pissarro painted fourteen oils on canvas in an identical topography. Matinée de printemps, 65 x 81 cm, was sold for £ 19.7M including premium by Sotheby's on February 5, 2014 over a lower estimate of £ 7M. Fin de journée, 54 x 65 cm, is estimated £ 3.5M for sale by Sotheby's in London on June 19, lot 9.
#AuctionUpdate Brilliantly evoking the excitement of Paris at the fin-de-siécle, Camille Pissarro’s Boulevard Montmartre, fin de journée from 1897 – bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun – brings £7.1 million, besting its £5 million high est pic.twitter.com/FDc7YCBZJv— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) June 19, 2019
1928 Under the Romantic Protection of the Eiffel Tower
2016 SOLD for £ 7M including premium
The following years were very hard, but his return to Paris in 1923 with his wife Bella opens to this hypersensitive artist the happiest period of his life. His little family now lives in comfort thanks to a contract with the dealer Bernheim-Jeune and to the projects of illustrations undertaken with Vollard.
Few figurative artists managed to express a perfect happiness. On February 2 in London, Christie's sells Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel, oil on canvas 90 x 117 cm painted in 1928, lot 24 estimated £ 4.8M.
The title is nice. Marc had married his muse thirteen years earlier but their couple in the lower right of the image retains the freshness of tenderly embraced newlyweds. Both gaze out towards the viewer while their daughter Ida aged 12 flies with her angel wings through a window to present to her parents a big bouquet of flowers.
Paris provided them the happiness and the colors are joyous. The Eiffel Tower is viewed beyond the gently animated green lawn of the Champ de Mars. The surrealism in the manner of Chagall is included : behind the Tower, trees float like clouds, bringing an additional lightness to this romantic composition.
1952 The Colors of Football
2019 SOLD for € 20M including premium
He appreciates that a full abstraction cannot express an artist's relationship to the world. He begins to state that abstraction and figuration are not incompatible. One of his confidants is René Char, the poet who gave freedom to words.
Nicolas and his wife attend a football match at the Parc des Princes on March 26, 1952. This event was an example of modernism, being one of the first to be played in the night under the spotlights. Saturated colors are new to the sport. The atmosphere does not alter the vitality of the boys focused on their actions. The result, 1-0 for Sweden against France, probably did not interest Nicolas.
The hypersensitive artist felt a lasting empathy for both teams. Back in his workshop, he produced in a few weeks a series of 25 paintings, providing his interpretation of the variety of movements.
Almost all these Footballeurs paintings are in small sizes. An oil on canvas 200 x 350 cm is an exception. Titled Parc des Princes by the artist and differentiated from the others by its subtitle Les Grands Footballeurs, it has been kept until now by the family and is estimated € 18M for sale by Christie's in Paris on October 17, lot 12.
This series on football changes forever the style of the artist, who has regained his sensitivity to the colors of landscapes, still lifes and flowers. A bouquet in a vase, oil on canvas 147 x 98 cm painted in the countryside during the summer of 1952, was sold for € 8.3M including premium by Christie's on June 7, 2018.
1961 Lente Hourloupe in Paris
2015 SOLD for $ 25M including premium
He creates his own artistic style based on trivial and pun. He complacently adds an earthiness that perfectly suits his need to shock. He surprises by his difference and becomes a famous artist.
After several years in the provinces, Dubuffet rediscovered Paris in 1961. The big city appears as a capital of the joie de vivre, the last place where Hemingway had tried to lead a festive life.
The artist interprets Paris in his way in his series of paintings Paris Circus. On May 11 in New York, Christie's sells Paris Polka, lot 22A. The press release of April 7 announces an estimate in the region of $ 25M.
This large oil on canvas, 190 x 220 cm, may be read like a tourist guide with facades and names of dancing halls symbolized by boxes filled with a dancing character. One of these signs, L'Entourloupe (the rotten trick), is anticipating the unprecedented and untranslatable pun that will define the next series of his art (l'Hourloupe).
In the same year, other paintings show Parisian buses fully loaded by his stylized figures, passing signs of various trades in the street. Trinité - Champs Elysées, 116 x 89 cm, was sold for $ 6.1 million including premium by Sotheby's on 11 November 2009. Gare Montparnasse - Porte des Lilas, 165 x 217 cm, was sold for $ 4.7 million including premium by Christie's on May 14, 2002.
1961 The Life on the Grands Boulevards
2016 SOLD for $ 24M including premium
This series is entitled Paris-Circus, where circus has not the meaning of a show but instead of a frenetic activity. In a surrounding of exuberant colors, people are dull, without personality, each one in his box like within a game of the goose and they do not communicate. The drawing is resolutely naive.
Paris Polka evokes dancing rooms and pleasures. This oil on canvas 190 x 220 cm was sold for $ 25M including premium by Christie's on May 11, 2015.
Humor comes back even bitter in Les Grandes Artères, oil on canvas 114 x 146 cm for sale by Christie's in New York on November 15, lot 17 A estimated $ 15M. Please watch the videoshared by the auction house.
The composition is made in three parallel registers successively showing the roadway, the sidewalk and the dense urban pattern of shops and buildings.
In the foreground, each driver is alone in his car, stuck in traffic jam and stuck in his attitude. The childish figure is reinforced by identifying the brand of the vehicle and its license plate.
The titles of the shops are countless puns. Their often incongruous identification remind that the big city is a threat to the individual : A l'issue fatale (fatal outcome), Faillite (bankruptcy), Fruits et légumes du désespoir (Fruits and vegetables of despair). Poetry is not absent : Fin de saison (end of season) is in line with Salaisons (salted meat). The artist adds his recommendations : Buvez froid (drink cold), Urinez souvent (urinate frequently).